Will deploying Microsoft Office in VDI cost you dearly?

Both Presentation Virtualisation and Desktop Virtualization can be used to provide a Windows desktop experience and to deliver applications, such as Microsoft Office, not only to desktop hardware that might be older but to non-Windows desktops (e.g. Linux PCs. Apple Macs or Thin Client devices). Both virtualization technologies can help your business centrally manage and support applications allowing you to make savings in improved productivity. Moreover, such centralization technologies can extend applications beyond your network – to home workers, to contract staff, to roaming users – and to an ever growing set of devices – be it a netbook, a Windows Mobile device or an iPhone.

While technologies exist to deliver your applications anywhere at any-time – have you factored in the additional cost of application licenses to achieve this?

VDI Can Save Me License Costs?

Yes – centralization can save money by moving from a license model based on potential usage to actual usage. However, bear in mind that cost benefits are only realized if you have an accurate understanding of how applications are used. With services such as Scalable’s Survey will allow you to assess application usage to determine which applications are being used and how. For instance – are your users licensed for the expensive Adobe Acrobat Pro when really, they simply need the free Adobe Reader? Microsoft Visio when they simply need Visio Viewer? 30 user licenses when in reality, no more than 15 people access the application over the course of a quarter. These tools can be used in a non-centralized environment, but the management control and changes to accommodate application changes in a centralized environment are more readily deployed.

I Just Need Software Asset Management Right?

Software Asset Management (SAM) can help you control costs by eliminating wasteful duplicate purchases and improving processes. Implementing and maintaining a good SAM plan gives you the information you need to know exactly how many licenses you have for each application so that you can optimize your assets, allowing you the option to purchase only the software that you will use.

Presentation Virtualisation or Hosted Desktop solutions allow you to manage number of users accessing an application and report on how often an application is used. For instance, you can limit an application to be launched by a specific number of users, or a a specific set of users. However, these solutions allow you to control centrally managed environments – it is not uncommon for an organization to have a mixture of devices – be they centralized desktops, traditional desktops and laptop/remote users. Your software management needs to incorporate all of your environment.

If you add third party tools such as RES Powerfuse  or Appsense‘s Application Manager you can provide additional license management, not only to ensure that only a certain number of applications are available but to ensure that license compliance is adhered to.

Implications of Per Device Licensing

It is important to bear in mind that many desktop applications are not licensed concurrently as many centralized solutions are. Applications may be licensed to specific users, or to a number of users – the task here is straightforward, ensure that the license count is monitored and managed appropriately.

However, some applications, such as MS Office, are licensed per device – not per user. This is rarely an issue for an MS Office based environment where each user has their own, or shares a device – such as a traditional PC. However, if you are considering extending your application reach beyond outside of the organization, have you considered how you will ensure you have the correct licenses purchased if the license is sold per device?

Microsoft Office

Your company needs an Microsoft Office license for every device that the organization has that can be used to access MS Office. Not every user. Every device.

More users than devices? You could possibly have purchased too many licenses. Revisit how many devices your organization has. More devices than users? For example, users have a laptop for remote working and thin client on their desk and they are able to access their workspace from home? Then you need to be able to manage user device access as the user can access MS Office from each of these devices, you need a license for each device.

So far we’ve only discussed MS Office (Word/Excel/PowerPoint etc). The issue is the same with products like MS Visio and MS Project – typically only used by a smaller number of users in an organization. These applications are also licensed per device. If you’ve a Presentation Virtualization (or HvD) and your users ‘roam’ (i.e. are able to use a number of devices) you need a license for every device they can make use of. Assigning users to groups and locking down access using NTFS permissions will not allow you to manage licenses to effectively; indeed if you’ve a Microsoft environment – group policies and software restriction policies cannot be used to as these policies only apply at a user, not a device level.

There is such a thing as “Secondary Use Rights”. Secondary use rights only applies to the single primary user of the original Office license. So only that one person can use this secondary use license on a portable device. For instance, if Darren Bent is the primary user of the Microsoft Office Volume License on a PC, he could use that version of Office on a single laptop through secondary use rights and be covered. Janet Willis; however, could not use Office on Darren Bent’s laptop through the secondary use rights since she is not the primary user of the Microsoft Office Volume License, so she does not have secondary use rights. If they share the laptop and both need Office, you would need to purchase a Microsoft Office license for that laptop so they both could use it. And, Secondary use rights only applies to portable devices, not home PCs

If you’ve home users you can have licenses specifically for the home devices. You can purchase Microsoft Work At Home (WAH) Licenses for the employees’ home desktops. If your organization has active Software Assurance you can also get Home Use Program (HUP) licenses for your employees’ home desktops. License choice options are available, but you do need extra licenses.

It is true to say that if you can confirm that a device will never be used to access MS Office, then you do not need to license that device. But, and this is an important fact, if your company was audited, how to evidence that to the auditors?

For confirmation, the official Microsoft licensing policy for applications in a server-based computing and virtual desktop environment can be accessed here http://www.microsoft.com/licensing/resources/volbrief.mspx

Managing License Access by Device

There are a number of software license management solutions however, Appsense‘s Application Manager is perhaps the only application authorized by Microsoft to allow you to manage MS Office Licenses.

AppSense Application Manager, like many other solutions, provides detailed insight into user activity and application usage through reporting and auditing functionality. Appsense Application Manager also operates with a kernel level filter driver within the Windows operating system. This filter intercepts all file execution requests prior to an application actually launching, to determine if the request is to be authorized or prohibited. Any unauthorized requests are blocked and the user receives a message, configurable by the administrator, stating that execution has been denied.

It is this level of detailed management that has led Microsoft’s own Licensing, Anti-Piracy and SAM Audience Marketing manager to endorse Application Manager as a solution that enterprises could use as part of Software Asset Management to provide device-based license management in a Windows Terminal Services, virtual desktop or virtualized streamed environment.

Will deploying Microsoft Office in VDI cost you dearly?

If you’ve not considered how your application deployment is licensed your company could either be paying too much for its licenses, or exposed to the risk of a hefty fine and charge to get compliant.

Centralization can help not only in managing application deployment, but in actively monitoring application access and usage. However, bear in mind that some applications – Microsoft Office for instance – are not licensed per user, but per device. Deploying applications any-time, anywhere, to any device can increase productivity and so save you money, but ensure you’ve effective software asset management controls in place to ensure you don’t expose your company to the risk of fines and retrospective license charges.

Of course, bear in mind you don’t need an MS Office license to view an MS Office document, Office viewers are freely available that you can download and use to merely view files created with Microsoft Office.

Perhaps the growth of desktop-as-a-service solutions will be spur that open source based Office products need to gain greater market share, or the shake-up that Microsoft needs to re-assess how it application licensing model accommodates more agile application delivery.

But until then, make sure your per device applications are licensed correctly.